FEGEMI Project: Identifying novel injury risk factors in women’s soccer and educating grassroots soccer clubs on how to effectively manage them

Soccer is an effective way to increase physical activity, thus helping to combat obesity and cardiovascular disease. The popularity of women’s soccer in Europe has increased markedly in recent years, which has helped increase participation at grassroots level. However, soccer is associated with various injuries that can lead to non-participation in sport and increased risk of sedentary lifestyle-associated diseases. Limited information exists on injury risk in female soccer players, particularly young players. The identification of novel female-specific injury risk factors would increase our understanding of why injury risk appears to be higher in female compared to male athletes. This knowledge would enable players/practitioners to individualise exercise-training to optimize performance, while simultaneously reducing injury risk. 
The aims of this ‘Female soccer players regarding Genetics, Menstrual Cycle and Injury risk (FEGEMI)’ project are to investigate novel injury risk factors in female soccer players, and to educate athletes and coaches (at elite and grassroots level) in effective management of those risks. In doing so, another aim is to protect athletes, especially the youngest, from health and safety hazards. The FEGEMI project comprises a powerful interdisciplinary collaboration between the Liverpool John Moores University (UK; Dr Robert M Erskine), St Mary’s University, Twickenham (UK; Dr Charles Pedlar and Dr Georgie Bruinvels), the Universidad del País Vasco (Spain; Dr Susana M. Gil), Liverpool FC Women (UK; David Robshaw), Liverpool Feds Women's Football Club (UK; Abigail Pope) and the Technical University of Munich (Germany; Dr Philipp Baumert) with further associated partners, including as Athletic Club Bilbao (Spain; Dr Jon Larruskain Zabala) and Everton Ladies FC (UK; Jack Clover). This consortium consists of world-leading experts in soccer-related injuries, the impact of maturation on youth soccer performance and injury risk, the influence of the menstrual cycle on exercise physiology and performance, and exercise genomics.
In five work packages (WPs), the project will investigate the impact of the menstrual cycle (WP1), genetic variation (WP2), maturation (WP3), and strength training (WP4) on injury risk in female soccer players. The results will inform workshops designed to educate coaches, athletes and other stakeholders of women’s grassroots and elite soccer clubs on female-specific injury risk factors and how they can be effectively managed (WP5). These workshops will become incorporated into national soccer association guidelines, thus having a positive impact on the profile of women’s soccer, as well as EU health care systems. 
The successful research proposal was written by Dr Philipp Baumert and Dr Rob Erskine, who were kindly supported by Antonkin Mikhael of the the Bavarian Research Alliance (BayFor). The project is funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union (Small Collaborative Partnerships scheme), for whose support we gratefully acknowledge.